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Antonio Dias and Tropicália
March 7, 2011, 4:34 am
Filed under: Caetano Veloso

I was surprised to find out during my research for the presentation on Caetano Veloso that an exhibit I had seen while visiting the ICA in Boston was done by Antonio Dias, an influential visual artist behind the Tropicalismo movement.

The piece consisted of thousands of pieces of burnt bark suspended in a web of wires. The photo does not do the effect of the piece justice. It was incredibly how the artist was able to create an environment that was dark, surreal, and to a certain point, quite mundane. Walking through the piece gave one the feeling that time had stopped and that at any moment, all of this bark could come crashing down or even rush directly at you. However, as I thought about the piece, I had a hard time placing it into the context of Tropicalismo. How did it fit into the cultural cannibalism that was central to the movement?

I dug further into Dias and looked at his other work, which extends from the 1960s to the 2000s. My knowledge of visual art is limited and I’m sure that like other artists in the Tropicalismo movement, Dias and his colleagues drew from a wide range of inspirations. However, by only viewing his work, I think that one theme he contributes to Tropicalismo is the concept of creating a larger world within one piece of art. Unlike paintings, photographs, or films, the exhibits constructed by Dias can be viewed from an infinite number of perspectives and each will offer a completely different take on the work. They surround the viewer and allow him to move around. There are multiple parts and segments and the work is very much about the relationship of those different sections (particularly in the last picture of his “Me and You”). In this sense, I can place Dias as a figure in Tropicalismo and am reminded of one of Caetano Veloso’s quotes: “We Brazilians should not imitate but rather devour new information wherever it comes”. To a certain extent, this is exactly what Dias does and exactly what he has viewers of his work do within his large, atmospheric exhibits.

– Ken Li


– Ken Li

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